Tag Archives: Emily Capo Photography

Butterflies, Granola, and Seriously Strong Women

screenshot202016-11-032021-12-32My latest article in Edible Nashville is out at last! Once again I had the delight of writing the “food hero” piece for the issue, this time covering the marvelous women who make up the Blue Monarch recovery center.

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granola-portraitThis center welcomes women who have been trapped in cycles of addiction and abuse to a beautiful farmhouse in Middle Tennessee where they can recuperate with their children. As part of their recuperation, the ladies are invited to work in the onsite industrial kitchen where they make…wait for it…granola! It is through this granola business that these women gain substantive work skills and honest paychecks which amount to, for many of them, completely novel experiences.

As it usually goes with these projects, I collected WAY more information and stories and photos than I could fit into a short article. I often leave these projects feeling like there is so much more I could have done to create awareness for the seriously wonderful work being done. In that spirit, I wanted to share with you the stories of two of the women who had been through the Blue Monarch recovery programming. Their testimonies speak to the radical transformation possible for people who otherwise feel trapped and helpless.

One of the amazing things about these stories is how ready these ladies were to tell them. Their histories are not pretty, to say the least. Their pain is prominent, but they’ve come so far and they take their memories in stride. They have seen how powerful their stories are in inspiring others; they don’t hold back from the messy details. When I arrived, they greeted me warmly with big smiles and immediately launched into stories of rape and overdoses. Those juxtaposed smiles startled me at first, but made much more sense when they got to their happy endings. If you had come that far, you’d be smiling too.

So here are the stories of Brandy and Donaree excerpted from an earlier draft. Enjoy.

“Looking at the stunning Blue Monarch campus, it is hard to imagine a better place to recover. Any visitor would be thrilled merely to relax on that porch. But for residents, Blue Monarch is nothing short of a miracle. Many arrive at Blue Monarch after living in cars or in homes plagued with abuse. Some of them were given the choice of Blue Monarch or a jail cell. Understandably, newcomers often burst into tears at the sight of the beautiful yellow home full of spacious rooms where they can care for their children in safety and rest—a luxury many of them never fathomed.

donaree-masters-1The Blue Monarch difference is especially evident in the ladies’ testimonies. Donaree Masters, a graduate who now runs the granola kitchen, was raised in an alcoholic home where she suffered physical and sexual abuse. In her mid-thirties, she began a twenty-year meth addiction that ended with her arrest. By the grace of God, she says, Blue Monarch accepted her into the program in 2013. Looking at her now, radiant and smiling, the very picture of health, you would never recognize the woman from her mugshot. “Even if I had never had my addiction,” she shares, “I could not be in a better spot than I am in now. The beauty of what happens here, seeing these women growing and learning—being here is a dream come true.”

brandy-granola-prepBrandy Wilson, a current resident soon to graduate, similarly beams with hope and wellness in spite of a childhood riddled with drugs and abuse. Removed by the state from her drug-infested home, Brandy spent her adolescence moving between thirteen different foster parents, some of whom molested her. When she turned eighteen, she moved in with her biological mother and together they would regularly get high on pills. This new ‘normal’ came to a traumatizing halt when Brandy returned from an errand to find her mother dead from an overdose in her car. Adding to her grief, Brandy’s continued drug use lead to many months in prison and losing custody of her daughter. Facing additional jail time after a broken house arrest, Brandy pleaded with the judge for help, for some alternative to falling back into the same patterns. Miraculously, the judge remembered Blue Monarch and allowed her to apply in lieu of further prison. Brandy, who was pregnant at the time, gave birth to her second daughter at Blue Monarch, and made enough progress to regain custody of her elder daughter while in the program. Brandy has since completed her GED, won scholarships to attend a local community college, and been baptized together with her seven-year-old.”

 

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Photo Friday: Why we can still feel good about the world

Election blues got you down? Fear of hurricanes and terrorism and Zika and economic collapse occupying too much space in your psyche?

The world may be going down the tubes, but there are still so many things to cheer our souls. For today’s Photo Friday, I dug up a bunch of images from the past year that remind me to be hardy, to laugh, and not to take life too seriously.

We can still feel good about the world…

  1. Because, as an adult, you can have cupcakes for breakfast.
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    Yes, that is kale on the side of my cupcake.

     

  2. Because of dogs who think they are people

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    Whatchoo lookin’ at?

  3. Because Deloreans are real. 

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    Alas, no flux capacitor. yet. 

  4. Because sometimes younger cousins make some rad pizza.

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    Well done, young grasshopper. 

  5. Because good friends aren’t afraid to go all out to dress up for a Renaissance murder mystery dinner party. 

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    I’m wearing a thrift store.

  6. Because of Chicken Parm 

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    I really, really miss New York sometimes. 

  7. Because sometimes it snows in the South. 
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    Archie’s favorite day ever.

    The best day of my dog’s life.

  8. Because, Star Wars. 

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    DIY Star Wars New Years Party

  9. Because Christmas. And people who go crazy with lights. 

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    Crown Point, IN

  10. Because sometimes you get to give your Swedish friends their first Christmas Scavenger Hunt. Also dogs in Christmas Sweaters.

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    They eventually found the ukulele.

  11. Because sometimes ordinary scenes become extraordinary.

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    Sometimes, Nashville really shines.


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How to Bermuda, Part 2

Last week I began a step-by-step guide to travelling in Bermuda on a (relative) budget. In Part 1 I covered planning tips and getting oriented when you arrive. In today’s Part 2, I will cover highlights of attractions and activities.

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Sunset at Marley Beach

Ah, Bermuda. Land of pink beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. Swimming there is like swimming in a giant liquid gemstone and every bit as sparkly. On this most recent trip, due to budget and the warm weather we were very happy to stick the water. Bermuda is also famous for its sailing, golf, wreck diving, and moped rentals, though we did not partake this time around. Even so, we learned quite a bit about some seriously fun places to explore, and here are some of the highlights.

 

  1. Beaches, beaches, beaches. 
    “The water was so warm I couldn’t believe it!” our Bermudian host told us as he recalled his last dip into the blue waters. Indeed, this past summer experienced especially warm weather, but even so July and August are high season for a reason in Bermuda with water temperatures so deliciously inviting you could stay swimming for hours at a time. Given this, we sampled as many beaches as we could fit in a five day visit, and here are our top finds:
    Marley Beach: Smaller and unassuming, we had this beach mostly to ourselves and spent the majority of our last day lounging in the shade of boulders and watching the shades of blue in the water transform as the sun coursed the sky. The water is slightly rougher than other locations, but still great for a joyous dip. Located just west of the Swizzle restaurant on South Road, a small driveway will take you down to the beach entrance.

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    Warwick Long Bay

    Warwick Long Bay: This stunning stretch of pinky, creamy, fluffy sand will have you wondering why you bother going anywhere else on vacation. We very much enjoyed watching  rainbow-colored parrot fish meander through the clear crests of waves. Again, we felt wonderfully secluded as there were so few people around. Located along South Road, Warwick Long Bay is its own park and you will find a pathway down to the sand from a small parking lot.

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    The path connecting the Warwick Beaches 

    Jobson Cove and Stonehole: Between Warwick Long Bay and Horseshoe Bay there is a sandy pathway connecting a series of coves, each of which look straight out of the pirate stories of our dreams. Tall rocky outcroppings frame calm swimming areas and even provide shade in the afternoon. It was very fun to beach-hop via that path.
    Coopers Island Park: On the Southeastern corner of the island you will find a former Air Force base turned park preserve. A semi-paved path passes through a fence and loops around the peninsula taking you to some of the prettiest white sand beaches on the island. This would be a great place for kids, especially, as the water is extremely calm and stays shallow a long ways out. Toward the tip of the peninsula, large stones create mini bathtubs in the water, perfect for relaxing. At the far end you can climb an observation tower for 360 degree views of the island and ocean. You also might even be able to spot turtles from that vantage point!

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    Coopers Island 

    Other notables: You might hear tell of the beauty of Horseshoe Bay. For our tastes it was too crowded to find any pleasure in being there, what with the hoards of cruise ship visitors clamoring around the bar. Even so, if the party atmosphere is your thing, then go for it. Tobacco Bay just north of St. George might also be a spot for you, and supposedly has some decent snorkeling, but we didn’t get that far. We did hear that snorkeling is good at Church Bay west of Horseshoe, and that Elbow Beach is lovely albeit shared with a big resort, but again, we ran out of time to see those.

  2.  dsc_0198Blue Hole Park/ Tom Moore’s Jungle 
    This FREE park is totally worth a few hours of your trip. There are two ways to get in there: first, from a pathway starting behind Tom Moore’s Tavern (incidentally the oldest eating house on island!) and second from a pathway and parking lot across the street from the entrance to Grotto Bay Resort. Well-trodden, though unmarked, trails will lead you through the park. Don’t be afraid to follow smaller trails as many of them lead to pools of blue water full of fish or small caves to peruse. We came through the Grotto Bay entrance. This path leads you to a clearing with a big tree in the center. The pathway on the left led to the Blue Hole, a large swimming spot full of bright turquoise and highly-salinated water ready for the plunging. You can either take your time entering the pool to the left of the deck area, or launch yourself off one of two nearby heights. The trail just beyond the big tree led to Tom Moore’s Tavern and, just beyond a large pool of fish, off to the right and up a little hill to the swimming cave. The swimming cave was worth the whole excursion. I highly recommend bringing water shoes as you will be climbing over wet rocks to enter and exit the water.
  3. Exploring St. George 
    Established in 1612, this pristine piece of colonial history welcomes guests with cute shops, decent restaurants, windy cobblestone lanes, and several interesting activities including a daily reenactment of a nagging wife dunking and a walk around St. Peter’s church, still standing after 400 years. We enjoyed our lunch at the Wahoo Cafe before heading out to Coopers Island via a shuttle that left from the information center.
  4. Hamilton Harbor Festival
    Wednesday night in Summer sees Hamilton’s Front Street closed to traffic and filled with food stands, tents with local artisans displaying their wares, and multiple live bands. If you are around the Hamilton area on a Wednesday, this is definitely worth a detour.
  5. Other Considerations
    One thing we did not do but I was curious about was the Railway Bike Path. It stretches across most of the island right down the middle and shows off parts of the island you otherwise wouldn’t see. I hear the best place to rent pedal bikes (as well as mopeds and scooters) is at Elbow Beach. Ah well, next time. I also would like next time to see a sunset from the western shores. We walked up to Gibbs Lighthouse one afternoon and enjoyed the view over the northern harbor.

A few more thoughts on Bermuda:

  • Walking in Bermuda is possible, but just be aware you will be walking mostly on grassy areas next the road and there is little to no shade to protect you from the sun.
  • I had originally hoped to bike on the streets but it took about two minutes on the island to realize that would probably be a bad idea. Sharp turns, blind corners, tall hedges, and barreling buses don’t mix well with cycling. I saw one or two people doing it, but I can’t imagine ever enjoying it.
  • Only residents are allowed to drive cars on the island, meaning you cannot rent them as a tourist. That is why many tourists go for either the bus or a moped rental, assuming they don’t cough up for taxis.
  • Once again, eating is very expensive. We scoped out some of the cheaper places and enjoyed our meals at both Swizzle locations, the Pickled Onion, and La Trattoria (though such a price tag for pizza stung). Because we had a kitchen, we ate most of our meals at home. We shopped at The Market, which is walking distance from the Hamilton bus terminal, and Modern Mart on South Road which has its own bus stop.
  • Tourist information centers can be very helpful, but we got some incorrect information from the one in St. George and never saw the one in Hamilton open. Like I said in Part 1, there is no information center at the airport. In short, prepare to get chummy asking locals for advice. Also, get your bus tickets and maps from the bus and ferry terminals.

That’s it! Feel free to contact me with questions. And Enjoy! We sure did!

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My Latest Video Project: Behind the Scenes at The Cookery

It all started when this Australian man gave me free dessert.

Josh and I arrived at The Cookery two winters ago just after Christmas to find the doors locked. As we were walking away, an Aussie named Brett beckoned us back and made sure we didn’t go away empty handed. (The cake was AMAZING, by the way). This little God moment turned into a huge blessing for me as I have since been entrusted with telling The Cookery’s story twice, first for Edible Nashville Magazine, and now in the video below.

It has been an honor sharing the stories and communicating the vision of the remarkable eatery and ministry that is The Cookery. This unassuming cafe nestled on 12 South in the Edgehill neighborhood of Nashville is so much more than it seems. Inside formerly homeless men are getting a second chance at life. They live in community that is safe, their needs are met, and they go to work each day to learn the culinary arts, a trade that will enable them to once again become self-sufficient. It is a place of miracles. Watch and see.


 

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Photo Friday! Sojourn to Twin Falls

There are not many places in Nashville to escape the relentless summer heat, but with a little planning, a 90-minute drive can get you to to a number of swimming holes and waterfalls perfect for those much needed respites.

Last weekend we trekked out to Rock Island State Park for a bit of hiking, swimming, and waterfall admiration. The big falls there, Twin Falls, looks like something right out of The Jungle Book. Several foot paths traverse the park and some of them lead to delightful swimming spots. There is also a wide, natural sand beach along the river with views of a towering cliff face and swooping hawks. We got a couple of burgers from the local Rock Island Market and Cafe (very tasty) and had ourselves a lovely picnic.

Here are some of the photos from the journey. Enjoy, and happy Friday!

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Twin Falls

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This was Archie’s first time swimming…the flailing was hilarious and painful, what with the scratching

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twin falls

forest stream

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Lazy River. But no, it does not go in a circle.

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This was the more popular swimming location.

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The swimming here was lovely and cool. Bit of a current though, and deeper than you think.

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Archie and Em

Proud of our brave little buddy.

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Photo Friday: Springtime in Nashville

Back when we lived in Chicago, the change of seasons would happen suddenly. It would feel each year like the city would decide overnight that it was Spring. Nashville, by contrast, has had a gradual season shift, and it’s been very pleasant. Everyday the landscape paints itself with green and yellow speckles, and every corner has a different tree erupting in white and purple flowers.

It’s been delightful watching Nashville bloom this Spring. See what I mean.

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Photo Friday: Chattanooga Dreamin’

Josh surprised me with a weekend getaway to Chattanooga last weekend, complete with a fancy meal at St. John’s Restaurant (FABULOUS) and a two-night stay at the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. It felt great to be exploring another new city with my camera. Here is what I saw…

art museum

brick shadows

bridge

bw bridge

choochoo

choochookid

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choochootrain

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coke wall 3

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flowers on fence

granddaughter

horse sculpture

josh in chair

market light

pizza wall

plant and door

shadowdeco

streetfellow

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Been Busy Making Things

I’m making progress on my 30×30 Makers List. To recap, I challenged myself to make 30 things before my 30th birthday. I have just under two weeks left. I’ve come a long way. Got a long way to go.

Here is some stuff I’ve been working on…

  1. PEKING DUCK. 
    That’s right. I did it. I made a Peking Duck at home. I dried that sucker out and coated it in a maltose solution and roasted it vertically. The last part I managed thanks to a tip from Serious Eats to stuff a beer can full of water up the cavity and stand it up in a roasting pan. 1.5 hours later, we feasted on delicious Peking Duck with all the fixings. And a side of snow pea tips in garlic.

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2. SHADOW PUPPET
I started this shadow puppet years ago after returning from Cambodia inspired by the art form. I don’t know why I decided on a flamenco dancer, but I was pleased to find this recently and add it to my maker’s list.

3. Recipe for Josefin
My friend Josefin, when she last visited the US from Sweden, had a brilliant idea: that she and I exchange recipes with the stories behind them, and perhaps one day assemble them all into a transatlantic cookbook. Naturally, I agreed. When I listed the first recipe on my maker’s list, my cousin provided this fantastic start to the challenge: my grandmother’s recipe for rye crackers written in her handwriting. The story is below.

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Our grandmother, Mimi, was an anomaly in our family. Mimi, you see, was always very proper, very feminine, reserved, and clean. She cared very much about appearances, much to the chagrin of the rest of us. My mother, by contrast, was very much a tomboy, always valuing athleticism, ingenuity, and silliness over traditional feminine attributes. Her grandmother, Mimi’s mother, was creative and affectionate and pleased to get dirty (or so people tell me…I never really knew her). My mom once told me the story of how she and her grandmother were in a row boat and my mom got out to swim alongside. She remembers her grandmother peering down at her from the boat above, shaking her head and asking rhetorically, “How did you ever come out of your mother?” All of us in the family laugh at this story. The idea of Mimi swimming in a lake, or even just messing up her hair, tickles us in its absurdity.

Growing up with Mimi, I hear, was much less funny. My mother constantly felt burdened to impress Mimi. Despite her efforts, she never seemed to escape the shadow of unachievable perfection she believed her mother sought from her. Whether or not Mimi actually desired perfection, or felt any disappointment with my mother’s choices, cannot be known until Heaven, and possibly not even then. However, my mother’s paranoia to please Mimi was transferred to me, and the unfortunate result was that I never felt comfortable around my own grandmother. I too always felt the need to put on a show, to dress well around her, and to hide my messes and shortcomings. It was stressful. We had so very little in common.

Very little, that is, except eating.

              After Mimi passed away my aunt asked us for any happy memories we had of our grandmother. As I look back on my fonder moments with Mimi, almost every single one of them involves eating. She was no chef, but she definitely appreciated delicious things. I remember sleeping over at her house during those years she lived near us in New York. Our ritual was to go out to a fancy Chinese restaurant for dinner and then in the morning she would make blueberry pancakes with kumquat marmalade and bacon. For family dinners, she would make a beef pot roast and serve it with gravy over fluffy dinner rolls baked with significant quantities of butter. As I got older, I began to cook for her, and very much enjoyed watching her eat my handiwork. She would close her eyes and make funny little grunting noises which, from her, somehow came out dainty. She would save chocolate to regift to me, knowing I would appreciate it, and she regularly had a tin of cookies and a tin of crackers ready for snacking during our visits.

It is the crackers that I share with you today. She enjoyed eating them with cottage cheese and tomato slices for lunch. I don’t remember enjoying the crackers much as a child, but my uncle brought a tin of them to Mimi’s memorial service and I gave them another try. As strange as it sounds, tasting the crackers that day made me smile. I remember the day was sunny and breezy and everything was green. We sat outside the church, munching away. They were Mimi crackers. Despite grieving her loss I felt, for me, that they manifested in a small way a celebration of her life.

And the crackers are scrumptious.

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How to Make a Renaissance Feast

This past weekend our friends hosted a murder mystery dinner party set in Elizabethan England. They called it “Myrder at the Blackfriar Taverne.”

They put me in charge of food.

I told them that I might need some boundaries.

They thought I was kidding.

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As I set about thinking through my plan, my initial inclination was to make things I already knew were delicious and pretend they were from the period. Then I remembered that I had the internet, and such access to knowledge holds us all to higher standards. Here are the steps I underwent. Should you ever host or cater a similar event, I hope will this be useful to you:

  1. Think through the categories of food you need: Starters, drinks, breads, entrees, sides, desserts (I made a spreadsheet to keep track of my plan and potential recipes). This is important because your research could easily send you spiraling off down rabbit trails and two hours later you find yourself with eighteen recipes for chicken and nothing else. Have a mission in mind. Therefore, instead of looking for “Elizabethan Recipes,” look for “Elizabethan Cake Recipe.” That said, your mission should also leave room for serendipity. You might find little factoids, as I did, of foods typical to the period that we no longer use. For instance, Elizabethan cuisine involved many floral flavors like rose and lavender, and we use much less of that today. Because of this, I knew that I needed to incorporate floral notes into the food when appropriate, thereby making it more accurate to the time period. Incidentally, this cake and this frosting were fantabulously delicious.

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    Elizabethan Honey Cake with Lavender Buttercream

  2. Choose your recipes with care, but don’t go crazy. Given that it took humanity a shockingly long time to add amounts to their recipes, many of the documented dishes that survived history are, for practical purposes, useless. Many people have made their own guesses as to what the recipes required, so given the high level of uncertainty, choose your recipes in a way that balances historicity, feasibility, and potential edibility. Remember, this is your dinner too. Challenge yourself, but be kind to yourself as well. For example, for this party I had to choose a recipe for manchet bread, a white bread typically reserved for nobility as white flour was expensive to obtain. Many recipes used lard, which I didn’t have, and others had no measurements, so it became very difficult to figure out what “real” manchet was. In the end, I picked a recipe that looked delicious, seemed supported by research, and had contemporary measurements. It was delicious and beauteous.

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    manchet, the bread of nobles

  3. Cross reference whether people ate the ingredients you want to use. Research the eating habits of different social strata…it’s fascinating. It seems Elizabethan peasants ate much more healthily than their noble counterparts. Believing vegetables to be “ground food,” nobles typically shunned nutritious options and instead indulged in white flour and white sugar, and paid dearly to do so. They loved sugar so much that the financially pressed nobles would blacken their teeth with soot to make them appear to be rotting from the sugar. It is also important to realize that, depending on when in the Elizabethan era you choose to focus, foods like potatoes, chocolate, and tomatoes had not yet made it across the ocean, and even after they did, they were only consumed by the most adventurous. Tomatoes were considered poisonous, in fact, for many years after their arrival in Europe. I share all of this because depending on your dedication to era-appropriate menu items, it helps to consider the facts.

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    mini meat pies, made with roast shredded pork, minced beef, minced sausage, carrots, onions, and peas.

  4. Think through your timing. This is true of any large catering venture, but you might not realize how long your leech, a milk and wine jelly, takes to set. Each layer of this pudding requires 12 hours each in the fridge, so I’m very thankful I checked the recipe a couple days before. In addition, bread needs time to rise and pie dough (with butter) needs to chill before rolling it out. Because you (probably) don’t have a kitchen staff in your castle bowels to get everything out on the table at the right time, you have to schedule yourself wisely.

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    Eight Cornish Hens

  5. Everyone loves cheese. 
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Best of luck with all your themed party cooking experiments!

Also, in other news, after this party I can now cross off several items from my 30×30 Maker List, including #8, the tiered cake, and #9, the Renaissance costume. Technically I made two costumes, because I was responsible for the hubby costume as well as my own. I made my costume out of curtains and a pillow sham. Seriously. I am also going to add Renaissance Feast to my list, as that was quite a feat of making.

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I think I just had the best Ethiopian food ever…

Among the many perks of working with a food magazine is the excuse (assuming I needed one) to try out new restaurants. I’m in the process of writing a piece on international coffee spots in town and, as part of this quest, I decided to try Awash Ethiopian, a hole-in-the wall gem where I think–I think–I may have just enjoyed the tastiest Ethiopian food of my life, and certainly the most authentic.

Before going, I had read that the little cafe was run entirely by one woman who begins prepping your food as soon as you walk in the door. Reviewers described the space is tiny, only enough room for a few tables, and over all very bare bones. It is also located in a neighborhood that would be considered obscure by many Nashvillians. Even so, every review glowed with praise when it came to the food and the hospitality of the hostess/server/chef, Zi*.

When we walked in Zi jumped up and immediately started moving toward the kitchen. She paused and smiled and asked us if we had had Ethiopian food before. “Oh yes! We love it!” She smiled again and started pulling out pans and ingredients. She didn’t take an order. She just went to work. We took a seat and watched her cook. The room was a little smokey, and we found out later why. We looked around at the Ethiopian tourism posters that lined the walls, and watched a little bit of the Ethiopian channel on the TV.

When she brought out the platter of yumminess I felt the grin stretch across my face. The stewed dishes were piled high on top of the injera, and the aromatic steam filled our nostrils. We tore off pieces of injera and started digging in, each bite better than the last. We had stewed beef in a mild berbere, yellow lentils, cabbage with carrots, fresh cheese, and greens. The greens in particular shocked me with their powerful flavor. I literally twitched with the fireworks going off in my mouth. It was just like that scene from Ratatouille.

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Zi wasn’t finished with her magic yet. We came for the coffee, but what I didn’t expect was that she would roast the coffee to order. I watched her as she scooped raw Ethiopian Coffee beans into a pan and shook them over the flame. When they were finished she brought the smoking pan over to us so we could smell up close. “This is Ethiopian culture,” said the older gentleman sitting next to us. She took the pan back and set to grinding the beans to a fine powder. She then put the powder in a clay pot with a high spout and boiled the coffee over the fire. She brought out the pot on a platter with a bowl of sugar and two dainty coffee cups. Though I feared the coffee would be very smokey and burnt, given the method of roasting, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The flavor was wonderfully smooth and not overly bitter. The coffee was strong and earthy, and with the sugar added it reminded me of chocolate and cinnamon, even though neither were present.

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Raw Ethiopian Coffee Beans

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Zi roasting the beans over the stove

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Ethiopian cup

I just sat there shaking my head and smiling. That might have just been the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had.

Go figure…Nashville, of all places.

 

 

*Zi is her name, but I don’t know if that is how it is spelled. 😦

 

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